Original Paper

Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 639-694

First online:

The syntax of non-inflectional plural marking

  • Martina WiltschkoAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, University of British Columbia Email author 

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Plural marking is not universally inflectional. This paper examines the formal properties of non-inflectional plural marking on the basis of a detailed case study of Halkomelem Salish. The plural marker in this language displays neither inflectional nor derivational properties. I argue that its distributional properties derive from its syntax: it is a modifier adjoined to category-neutral \(\sqrt{}\) roots. The analysis implies that plural marking is not universally merged as a syntactic (functional) head and that it does not universally merge with nouns. This leads to the postulation of a new typology of plural marking which goes beyond the distinction between inflectional and non-inflectional plural marking. Several diagnostics to distinguish among distinct types of plural markers are established.


Functional categories Plural Modifiers Salish Inflection